In May of 2021, my TEDx Talk titled, “Prostitution: The Oldest Oppression in the Book”, was officially launched. Beyond being a bucket list achievement, this was truly about sharing an idea worth spreading. Beyond being a bucket list achievement, this was truly about sharing an idea worth spreading. As the daughter of a survivor of trafficking and a survivor of pimp-controlled exploitation myself, it was (and is) important to me to shed light on the reality that prostitution is not just a job like any other.
Especially during a time when there is a huge legislative push to fully decriminalize prostitution, including pimping and sex buying, I want people to understand that prostitution is a system of violence and oppression that exploits the most vulnerable in our society.
That it essentially capitalizes off of people’s poverty, childhood sexual abuse and sexual harassment, all while fueling sex trafficking. In my talk, I share stories and research to support this perspective as well as tangible solutions to help reduce trafficking and provide prostituted people pathways to survive without having to sell themselves.
After 6 years of applying to speak on a TED stage and a rigorous application and review process, my talk was finally fully approved and ready to be shared on a live stage.
Enter Covid. The 2020 TEDx UCLA event was cancelled.
A year later, when it was clear that restrictions would continue to postpone any live events, due to the time-sensitive nature of this topic, I decided to accept the invitation from TEDx to do the talk virtually to get it out there as soon as possible.
Because we wanted it to be done with excellence, we brought in our own professional videographers and editors, spending a pretty penny in the process.
All worth it for an idea worth spreading.
Much to my dismay, as soon as TED published my talk, it was met with various cyber-attacks including shadow banning and spamdexing, a practice that is meant to suppress videos from being seen. Someone flooded YouTube with hundreds and hundreds of videos containing pornographic thumbnails using my name and talk title. YouTube’s algorithms treated my video like spam and the only people who could see it were those with a direct link to the correct video. I finally got an attorney to help stop the cyber-attacks, but the damage had already been done.
My talk was effectively suppressed and my voice, silenced.
In October of 2021, at the suggestion of the kind people at TEDx UCLA we took the old spammed version of the video down and re uploaded it to TED with a new title, in hopes of a fresh launch. Only this time, despite the fact that it had already been through their rigorous review process, TED wouldn’t publish it.
They flagged it as being too political.
When we pointed out that they already had a talk on the EXACT same topic, sharing an opposing view and promoting full decriminalization of prostitution, TED went radio silent.
Finally, after a couple of months of reaching out, in January of 2022, TED asked me to provide my credentials, affiliations and a list of works cited. I explained that as a survivor and the Founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit that provides recovery services to other survivors, I am sharing from lived experience as well as 20 years of professional experience. Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also noted I hold the following:
BA in Psychology and Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA (Magna Cume Laude)
UCLA: 2019 Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumna of the Year Award
National Association of Social Workers Youth Social Worker of the Year
Congressional Recognition in 2018
Mayoral Recognition 2017
Oh… and also, I am a complete data geek, so the list of works cited was easy. I sent them three full pages of references. Radio silent.
Finally, last week, after lots of follow up, we got an answer:
“ Upon further review, we have determined that the talk will remain unlisted on our channel with the following note in the description: NOTE FROM TED: This talk contains a discussion of child sexual abuse and prostitution. We’ve flagged this talk because it falls outside the content guidelines TED gives TEDx organizers around political agendas. ”
Here is the deal… they have already given a platform to the topic of prostitution laws.
As for the discussion of childhood sexual abuse and prostitution, I barely looked and found 14 TED talks on prostitution. And if there is any talk that should be flagged and banned, how about the one on the idea that we need to have more empathy for pedophiles?
It seems like TED has less of a problem platforming talks on prostitution and sexual abuse, and more of an issue with my specific talk.
It makes me wonder, why is TED silencing a survivor?
What is the idea they don’t want to spread?
And who benefits from my voice not being heard? Sex buyers? Pedophiles? Traffickers?
I still adamantly believe that this is an idea worth spreading.
Will you help?